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- 20 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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Set over the top of several geological fault lines, Managua is an unusual place. In 1931 and then again in 1972, earthquakes destroyed many of the central buildings, meaning old and new architectural styles now sit side by side in Nicaragua's capital. You'll find bustling markets packed with colourful wares, contemporary street art and an abundance of nature nearby. The Lake Xolotlán malecón (promenade) is a popular spot with the locals, while a backdrop of active volcanoes provides thrilling day trips outside the city.
Most hostels in Managua have air con in the rooms or an outdoor pool to cool off in. Sleep between crisp white sheets in a brightly coloured Casa or while away an afternoon in the gardens of a colonial mansion. Many Managua hostels have free breakfast, and ask if your hostel has free city maps too: you'll be glad of one when you're navigating the districts of Managua. Whichever neighbourhood your hostel is in, you'll usually find spacious outdoor social areas and all have free Wi-Fi.
There are several neighbourhoods to visit to get a feel for the city. Old Managua lies directly on the lakeshore. Though most of it was destroyed, the slightly wonky Catedral de Santiago still stands alongside other colonial-era buildings. From Plaza de la Revolución, the heart of the old city, you can follow neon metal trees all the way to Paseo Xolotlán. This new lakeside malecón ends with a hub of restaurants and bars. South of the old city is Barrio Martha Quezada, where most travellers congregate. Street art and low priced restaurants are the main draw here.
A walk up to Loma de Tiscapa is a popular activity in Managua. The highest point in the city is dominated by the silhouette of national hero Sandino. Hunting through markets is a national pastime and Mercado Roberto Huembes is a local favourite, where traditional costumes are for sale alongside roasting street food. Take the 25-minute ride to Chocoyero-El Brujo Natural Reserve to spot howler monkeys and parakeets. You can even drive to the crater of an active volcano in Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, Nicaragua's most-visited attraction.
Managua is a major transport centre so you can catch national and international buses from the individual company stations in Barrio Martha Quezada. If you're flying into Managua International Airport (Augusto C. Sandino International Airport), it's a 30-40 minute taxi ride to the city. When you're getting around Managua it's best to use private taxis (look for red plates) or colectivos which pick up passengers en route.